In NYC, Animal Abusers May Have to Register Like Sex Offenders

After a man hurled his dog to its death, New York City wants to take a tougher stance on animal abusers.

A proposed New York City law would require animal abusers to register their names, addresses, and photos to a list that would prevent them from adopting or purchase other pets. (Photo: Susan Sabo Photograpy/Getty Images)

What do a sex offender and an animal abuser have in common? If they’re in New York City, they both might have to register their names to a list that alerts others to their crimes.

A human adoption agency wouldn’t place a child with a known sex offender, so why should animals be subjected to such a game of Russian roulette?

The potential law comes as a reaction to a man who killed his pet Shar-Pei last year when he threw it from a third story window. If the law is passed, animal abusers will be required to submit their names, home addresses, and photos to an online registry distributed among shelters and pet shops, preventing them from owning another animal.

The registry would mimic the list to which sex offenders must submit their information, reports The Los Angeles Times.

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The man who hurled his dog to its death was sentenced to 364 days in jail and is not allowed to own a pet for three years. If caught with a pet, the man could face severe consequences, but that won’t prevent an unsuspecting shelter from adopting an animal out to him should he choose to disregard the terms of his sentence.

With an animal abuser registry, shelters and pet shops can run a person’s name through their system and deny pets to individuals who have proved they don’t deserve the love and devotion of a companion animal. A human adoption agency wouldn’t place a child with a known sex offender, so why should animals be subjected to such a game of Russian roulette?    

The measure’s chief sponsor, Councilman Peter F. Vallone, Jr., hopes that an animal abusers registry will prevent cruelty from befalling helpless pets, saying that, “We want to keep defenseless animals out of the hands of known abusers.” If enacted, the law would slap convicted abusers who fail to register or are found in possession of a pet with a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

While the measure has good intentions, it may be an uphill battle.

Currently three New York counties—Suffolk, Albany, and Rockland—have enacted animal abuse registries like the one Vallone is advocating for New York City, but other similar proposed lists have fallen by the wayside. In Virginia last year, an animal abuser registry went cold when the state police department quoted about $1 million for its creation. A 2010 registry bill met with the same fate in California. Named after a kitten who was beaten to death, Dexter’s law in Florida lost momentum in legislative discussions.

Despite setbacks in other states and counties, New York City’s proposed measure demonstrates a genuine interest in protecting animals. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, nine states introduced registry bills last year. Such registries can have a positive impact on the prevention of cruelty to animals. And considering that some serial killers have demonstrated a pattern of animal abuse escalating to homicide, an animal abuse registry may very well save human lives as well as the lives of our four-legged companions.

Do you think a required animal abuser registry will help prevent pets from becoming the victims of cruelty? Or do you think it’s an invasion of privacy?

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